TELCOs – OCBC

Expects steady growth in 2015

  • Stable FY15 outlook
  • Rising interest rate threat
  • Yields should remain fairly attractive

Stable outlook for 2015

For FY15, the three local telcos have guided for a relatively stable outlook. M1 is probably the most optimistic among them, as it is expecting moderate earnings growth (in single digit) and slightly lower capex of S$120m this year. On the other hand, StarHub eyes low single-digit revenue growth, but it has kept its EBITDA margin guidance at 32%; as this is lower than the 33.7% achieved in FY14, it could translate to a flat earnings growth. Singtel has kept its stable group revenue and EBITDA outlook unchanged.

Mobile market remains stable

On the main mobile market, we note that while there has been a pickup in net adds in subscribers as well as ARPUs in the post-paid space, mobile penetration continues to edge lower, suggesting that further growth in mobile revenue will have to be driven by increased data usage. The telcos are hopeful that the higher 4G speeds will trigger more data usage; but anecdotal evidence suggests that subscribers remain mindful of their data caps.

Some signs that broadband market is more rational

While telcos continue to expect the broadband market to remain competitive, we believe that there are signs that the competition is getting more rational; this as the ISPs are no longer using price to grab market share. Instead, more are starting to offer speed upgrades to entice customers to sign up with them. As the incremental cost of these speed upgrades are quite minimal, margins should also start to improve.

Interest rate threat looming

With telecom stocks being pitched as defensive stocks and “prized” for their stable and attractive dividend yields, the threat of higher interest rate is likely to be a concern. However, we believe that as long as local interest rates do not rise sharply, we do not expect the telcos to lose their appeal. Maintain NEUTRAL on the sector, with a preference for Singtel (HOLD, S$4.16).

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